Police shootings, "reaching for waistbands," summary judgment, and the right to a jury trial.

In October 2016, I filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari in Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston, No. 16-515, seeking review of a decision of the Fifth Circuit.  Excerpts of the petition are below.  The City of Houston waived a response, but the Supreme Court requested one.  The City then filed its Brief in Opposition, and we filed a Reply Brief.  

The case involves basic questions of summary judgment under Rule 56--in essence, when is a person entitled to a jury trial?  It also involves a frequent issue that arises in police shootings: How does the judicial system account for the officer's claim that he shot the person because the person allegedly "reached for his waistband"?

QUESTION PRESENTED

When a police officer shoots an unarmed person in the back and the person testifies that he was merely walking away when shot, may a court grant summary judgment to the officer in a suit for excessive force by concluding that it is an “undisputed fact” that the person reached for his waistband just because the officer said he did?   

How to Write a Good Reply Brief

This is the text of a short article I wrote in 2015 for Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal.  The link to the article as it appeared in the magazine is here.

Tips for Writing a Powerful Reply Brief

 

     "You Lie!"

- Rep. Joe Wilson to President Obama during a 2009 Speech to Congress

- Every Litigator Since the Dawn of Civilization When Reading the Opposition's Brief

We’ve just read the opposition brief in our big case.  Now we are considering drafting our reply brief without including the four-letter words that recently echoed from our office walls. 

How to Write a Good Opening Brief

This is the text of a short article I wrote in 2013 for The Federal Lawyer Magazine.  The link to the article as it appeared in the magazine is here.

WRITING THE HOLISTIC BRIEF:

MAKING IT MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS

Much ink has been spilled to improve basic legal writing, particularly with good emphasis on clarity and conciseness in crafting each section of a legal brief. It seems to me that law students and new lawyers are more and more cognizant of these “rules” for good writing. But sometimes the big picture gets forgotten in its individual parts. A compelling brief consists of more than just those well-written sections; it is a holistic document that tells your client’s story with a smooth flow, building persuasiveness from one section to the next. How do we capture that persuasive flow for the judge? We must continuously imagine what it is like for that busy judge to sit at his or her desk and pick up your brief (among perhaps 20 others that week) and assess your client’s story. Consider the following as you prepare your next brief.